Economy

Crowds to return for Australian Open 2021 blockbusters

Crowds to return for Australian Open 2021 blockbusters”

Stay-at-home orders will be lifted for six million Australians in the state of Victoria Wednesday after a successful five-day lockdown, allowing businesses to reopen and some spectators to return to the Australian Open tennis tournament.

The state has recorded 12 more active cases since the lockdown was implemented but, with none discovered in the past 24 hours, Victorian premier Daniel Andrews announced restrictions will be eased.

Australia has reported over 29,000 cases and 909 deaths since the start of the pandemic - far fewer than many nations.

The snap lockdown was imposed in Victoria on Friday after the spread of the United Kingdom variant of the virus linked to hotel quarantining travellers returning from overseas.

"There was simply no alternative but to follow the advice provided", he said.

Masks will remain mandatory indoors and outdoors where social distancing isn't possible and the home gathering limit has been tightened to five visitors, down from 15.

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Andrews' announcement paved the way for tennis fans to return to watch the year's first tennis Grand Slam as the Australian Open's final rounds get underway at Melbourne Park.

The state had already endured two previous lockdowns - including a four-month shutdown of its state capital Melbourne - due to failures in the hotel quarantine scheme.

"We look forward to welcoming fans back to the Australian Open for the next four days and to finishing the event safely and on a high", tournament director Craig Tiley said in the statement. At least two of them had the United Kingdom variant.

Chief Health Officer Professor Brett Sutton urged Victorians to be vigilant, saying people identified as close contacts of existing COVID-19 must see out their remaining quarantine periods.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that the lockdown would end as planned at midnight, even though three more locally transmitted cases have since been discovered. "We are well-placed to be able to make changes tomorrow night".

Up to 20 people can meet for outdoor public gatherings, while workforce capacity in the private and public sector will ramp up to 50 per cent.

As Melbourne re-emerges from a five-day snap lockdown, fans can embrace life in the city once again by securing seats for blockbuster matches at the business end of the event, beginning with Thursday's women's singles semifinals before the first of the men's singles semis that evening.



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